The PA State Laurel Festival is held annually the second weekend through the third weekend in June to promote the community of Wellsboro, one of Pennsylvania’s natural wonders – the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, and our state flower – the Mountain Laurel. Events include a pet parade, craft fair, concerts, bicycle race, 10k race and the Laurel Parade. The festival highlight is the crowning of the Laurel Queen.
Organized by the Wellsboro Lions Club, the first Laurel Festival was in 1938 and was the brainchild of Larry Woodin, a Wellsboro businessman who was so impressed with the Pine Creek Gorge, located 10 miles southwest of Wellsboro, that he persuaded the Chamber of Commerce to publicize it as a natural wonder of Tioga County. Through Mr. Woodin’s efforts, visitors came to see the breathtaking 50-mile gorge, now known as the “Grand Canyon of the East” or the “Pennsylvania Grand Canyon.”
The Laurel Festival continues to grow, and the friendly hospitality of the area has not changed over the years. Visitors are welcome to enjoy not only the fun of the Festival, but also the unspoiled forest land abloom with laurel, and clear bubbling waters – all the natural beauty of Tioga County.
Laurel Festival Events
Family Day – This is group of events that Kicks off the PA State Laurel Festival. It is a coop effort by the Wellsboro Chamber of Commerce, the Tioga County Partnership for Community Health and the Wellsboro Montessori Children’s Center. Events include a karate demonstration, ventriloquist performance, face painting, live music and more.
The Laurel Flyer Road Race – Formerly known as the Laurel Classic, this road race kicks off the Laurel Festival. It is a 23.6 mile citizens race beginning and ending at the Grand Canyon Airport, 6 miles from downtown Wellsboro. The race includes Female and Male categories in 5 age groups and takes participants through some of the most scenic paved roads surrounding the airport.
Pet Parade – This community pet parade brings out the some very interesting and entertaining animals and their owners. They meet at Packer Park, the pets are judged in a variety of categories, then they march the parade route from the Packer Park to the Wellsboro Green where awards are presented. This is a very popular event.
Laurel Festival Gospel Sing – This is a special time of inspirational music.
Laurel Concert Series – Held on the weeknights (Monday – Thursday) during Laurel Festival Week, the Laurel Concert Series features a variety of musical entertainers.
Laurel Festival Arts & Crafts Show / Street of Foods – Beginning Friday morning and continuing through Saturday night the Arts and Crafts vendors present their wares for sale on the Wellsboro Green. The juried show features quality products. The International Street of Food is on the back side of the green and presents a variety of culinary delights.
Queens Welcome – The Laurel Queen Candidates begin their weekend in Wellsboro on the steps of the Tioga County Courthouse. The Candidates and their families are welcomed to the community by local representatives.
Laurel Queen’s Preview / Concert – The Laurel Queen’s Preview is the first opportunity for the public to be introduced to the candidates who are vying for the title of PA State Laurel Queen. The girls introduce themselves, give a brief statement and then are seated front and center to enjoy a concert that, although open to the public, is prepared with them in mind. For a look at past entertainment, please view the Laurel Festival Entertainment Page.
Laurel Festival 10K Race – The Annual 10K foot race and 2 mile fun run/walk begins at Packer Park and ends at the Wellsboro Green. The course is challenging with rolling hills and both paved and dirt surfaces. Runners enjoy the majestic scenery of PA Grand Canyon Country.
Laurel Festival Parade – The Annual Laurel Festival Parade is well known throughout the state for its wide variety of musical units including top notch high school bands, drum and bugle corps, string bands and others. Area non-profit organizations and businesses community float entries compliment the professionally designed floats that transport the beautiful young ladies representing high schools from throughout the state in the Laurel Queen Pageant. Antique/classic cars, state-of-the-art fire engines, line dancers, motorcycles, horses, clowns and much more will add to the festivity of the traditional 2 hour parade.
Laurel Queen’s Coronation – The final phase of the Laurel Queen pageant takes place on Saturday evening with the selection of the top 10 candidates. Each candidate is given a question to answer giving the judges a final look before retiring to choose the Laurel Queen. During the intermission, the judges deliberate. The Queens court is then announced and finally the Laurel Queen is proclaimed and crowned by State Senator Joseph Scarnati and the reigning Laurel Queen. Click here to view a list and photos (where available) of past Laurel Queens.
Union Church Service – The Wellsboro Ministerium hosts this multi-denominational service held on the Wellsboro Green.
Several Poems and songs have been penned about the town of Wellsboro and the Laurel Festival. Here’s one written for the 1951 Laurel Festival:
By Len Fleming, 1951
Just a friendly town
With it’s shady streets
So new and clean
The Village Green
Never lets you down
It’s a great little place
Yes a wonderful place
And, I’m proud to call it my home.